Ask Marge

Dear Marge: Am I Supposed to Serve the Wine My Guest Brings to Dinner?

updated May 24, 2019
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Dear Marge,

Can you please settle an argument for us? My partner says that when we go to our friends’ house for dinner and bring a bottle of wine, they should serve it. I point out that means the reverse is also true — so if friends bring over a bottle of crisp white and we’ve splurged on big, beautiful steaks, that’s what we’d have to pour. My partner’s response is that guests should ask what’s being served and bring a bottle that goes with it.

So do we have to serve the wine friends bring or should we tuck it away and serve the wine we’ve chosen for the meal?


Thirsty for the Good Stuff

Dear Thirsty,

You get ten points and a gold star, and your partner has to go sit in the corner. Okay, not really, because I get this question more than any other, so your partner gets a pass.

When a guest brings a bottle of wine, it is generally considered a gift for the host, like bringing cool kitchen towels or a beautiful candle. So you can see that it makes sense that you can tuck it away to drink another time. I’d even suggest showing your partner the label and saying something like “Oh, look what Kelly and Sam brought for us!” That shows your guests you appreciate their choice — and also, in no uncertain terms (in case they, like so many people, aren’t clear on the etiquette) that you are looking forward to drinking the wine another time.

That is not true, though, if your friend calls ahead and asks what she can bring, and you suggest a bottle of wine. In that case, she is bringing something to contribute to the party, and you should serve it. (And by the way, feel free to casually mention what you are serving in broad terms, such as “red meat” or “shellfish.”)

My favorite guests bring two bottles, and tell me this one is to serve with dinner, and this one is to save for later. My sister always does that, and makes the second bottle something more special. (Love you, Cynth!)

– Marge

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